I remember the first experience with feeling empathy towards animals started with our dog Inky when I was about seven (which was fifty-five years ago). I may have been the one to find her dead in our garage. Knowing that she was dead was devastating to me. My parents thought our neighbors might have poisoned her. Thinking that people could be so cruel affected me deeply and I felt overwhelmed with sadness for our old cocker spaniel who had been so kind and loving.
When at age nine I finally was able to have my very own dog, a friendly and affectionate golden retriever I named Goldy, I was thrilled. But only a few months after she became my companion, vicious bulldogs attacked her. The bloody wounds in her stomach looked so painful, and for some reason, my parents did not take her to the vet. She ran away, never to be found. I sat in my second story room, looking out my window, hoping to see her feathery tail wagging. I was crushed by this loss.
Probably to avoid being so hurt again, I never wanted a dog or a cat that I called my own after this painful loss. But I still loved animals and felt connected to their pain. One book that deeply affected me was “Beautiful Joe” based on the true story of a dog who lived in Canada. The book’s opening scene where a dog was being cruelly treated by his owner, and then was saved by a beautiful and courageous woman, touched my heart deeply. I cry even now when I think about the examples of animal abuse described in this book. At age twelve, reading the heroic adventures of the young lady who helped save animals she saw were being abused, this book inspired me. “Maybe I could help to alleviate the suffering of animals and humans,” I thought. But probably because of societal influences, for most of the rest of my life my focus was on alleviating the suffering of humans.
When I was seventeen I had an epiphany while watching the well-known television show, Lassie. I was having a particularly hard time with people who were treating me in hurtful ways. When I saw the unconditional love that Lassie had for Timmy and other people, from seemingly out of nowhere I had these thoughts:
“Most dogs are kind to people. We don’t eat them. Most cows are kind to people. We eat them. People are unkind. We don’t eat them. Therefore, I don’t want to eat animals. They are kinder than people. I don’t want to hurt animals. They don’t deserve to be hurt.”
I instantly became a vegetarian for ethical reasons. I was committed to this lifestyle up until about two years ago when I happened to be at the Comic-Con Conference in San Diego. My daughter and I had some free time and decided to take a trolley down to this event to see what was happening. We walked by a friendly woman who offered us a dollar to watch a three-minute video. Because a dollar was a lot to me at that time, I was willing to take her up on the offer!
The video was made by Farm Animals Rights Movement (FARM) and was very well done. Even though I had wanted to give up dairy and eggs for the past few years, somehow I couldn’t take this next step. However, when I was asked how many days I would be willing to give up all animal products, I said, “seven days a week”. Since then, I have been a committed vegan.
I thought that just being vegan was a huge contribution to helping alleviate the suffering of animals. Besides, other issues were tugging at me for attention. I decided to pour all my efforts into the animal rights movement when I met Barbara Hulley when I was visiting the Bay Area last year. I had finally found my niche after searching for the past 43 years.
Funding came forth from a sponsor who generously helped Jesus Vegans get off the ground. We continue to receive money in order to move forward with a staff, an event center, and an eco-village (which is in the process of being built). Being able to attend the Creature Conference in London last March, and connecting with people like Daryl Booth who founded Sarx (a Christian animal welfare organization based in the UK) has also been amazing. I have found that people who are both Christian and vegan have more in common with me than anyone else I have experienced. This gives me a lot of joy because I love working with like-minded people who are both passionate about their cause and share my core values.
My heart breaks for the suffering of animals, especially farm animals because their deaths are so unnecessary. I am surrounded by people who eat meat and animal products. I don’t condemn them because of their habits. After all, I ate animal products that produced great suffering in animals (dairy products and eggs) until only two years ago. And most of them accept my preferences and even support me in my efforts to build Jesus Vegans. Yet I yearn for a day when all can wake up and see that their eating habits directly hurt other creatures who have emotions just like we do.
Recently, after getting marvelous feedback about our website from Sarx director Daryl Booth, Chris (my son who works for Jesus Vegans full time) and I came up with a revised mission statement which gave me hope that we can make a difference in helping people wake up. Here it is:
“Our mission is to empower vegans, animal rights supporters and those who care about the earth to cooperate, build communities, and increase unity.”
In this way, I can utilize my life-long experience in organizing events, people, groups, meetings, structures, and communities. I can also use my communication skills and facilitation skills as well.
I feel grateful to be able to work full time on fulfilling this mission, and now the only things missing are passionate, emotionally healthy people who want to use their talents to help make this mission a reality. We are able to offer a work exchange program which you can learn more about here. if you want to explore the possibilities of living and working to produce events at our event center and build our eco-village.
Thanks so much for reading my story. I would love to hear your feedback as well as hear about your stories.